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FANCY meeting a suave, handsome gentleman at a swanky bar. You catch a whiff of his fresh, musky cologne and are instantly drawn to him. He flashes you a smile and you are giddy with excitement. He engages you in fun, flirtatious banter and you soon find yourself in a world of sweet, wonderful sensations.

The 19-Year-Old Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish evokes the smooth, buoyant charm of a comely gentleman.

A deep, earthly aroma of sweet ripe figs and orange marmalade, infused with notes of gooseberries and grapes tickled my senses as the whisky filled my glass.

Paired with fish, the rich and spicy flavours of whisky trickled down my throat in a smooth, cascading motion.

The taste is a mixture of cinnamon and crushed black pepper atop a deep, earthly base of caramelised fruits, crystallised ginger, raisins and hints of dry oak.

The texture is silky smooth and finishes with a dry, warm sensation that fades into a lingering aftertaste of sweet marmalade.

Glenfiddich’s first-ever 19-year variation, the single malt scotch whisky has been matured in oak casks that were used to age fine Madeira wine.

It is billed as the first in a series of Age of Discovery bottlings and pays tribute to the remarkable achievements of European explorers of the 15th and 16th century, particularly the Portuguese, who sailed beyond the known world and opened up trade routes with West Africa, the Far East and the Americans.

These Portuguese explorers also established the city of Macao, China; gave Taiwan the name Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island); and discovered the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira, revolutionising our understanding of the world.

“The pioneering spirit of these explorers has stayed with us across centuries and we are delighted to be launching a range of whiskies that celebrate and remember the Age of Discovery,” said Glenfiddich’s malt master, Brian Kinsman.

For Struan Grant Ralph, Glenfiddich’s lumbering tall whisky ambassador for South-East Asia, whisky packs a real punch.

“It’s a real drink. If you’re afraid of flavour, try vodka or white rum.

“If you like flavour in your life, try whisky, try good food or good coffee,” the Scottish native tells Star2 over lunch at The Press Room in Bangsar.

“Whisky is an extension of these things that would excite your palate.”

Chocolate, coffee, along with gastronomical staples like red meat are among the best things to pair with whisky, according to Ralph. “Generally, good whisky and good coffee go well together.”

Whisky, he adds, complements milder flavours. “One thing we try to avoid with whisky is pairing it with strong flavours, like chilli and garlic; nothing with too strong a flavour.

“I was told that sushi also makes a very good flavour with whisky.

“That kind of nice, oily, creamy texture you get from sushi goes well with it,” he elaborates.

Born in Speyside, a whisky-producing hub with the largest number of distilleries in Scotland, the strapping 31-year-old shares: “The water that runs out of our taps is the same water they use to make whisky.

“The actual area I grew up in had maybe 60 to 70 distilleries in an area about the size of Kuala Lumpur.”

Talk about paradise. Laughing, Ralph, who has been involved in the whisky industry for over 10 years as mixologist and trainer before joining Glenfiddich some 12 months ago, recalls his experience of conducting a recent workshop in Vietnam.

“I towered over most of the participants and everybody wanted to take pictures with me,” he says with a smile.

He gave this writer a rather bemused look when we told him of our “whisky binge” during our trip to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital not too long ago.

“This is why you should never make assumptions,” he chuckles when we finished. “You’re an Asian girl and you’re young and yet you go out and drink whiskies.”

While drinking has long been established as a national Scottish habit, Ralph points out with a smile: “Asian people drink, too. And I’ve noticed that in Asia, when you go to a club, you like to see certain bottles on a table. I think this,” he says, showing us a bottle of the 19-year-old single malt scotch whisky, “looks very good on a table.”

The 19-Year-Old Glenfiddich comes in a black glass bottle that is embellished with a red cartouche compass and is encased in an outer display box that is adorned with illustrations that map out the travels of the Portuguese explorers.

So quality single malt scotch whiskies aren’t just for luncheons and dinners, then? They are party drinks in clubs too?

“I think both,” the dapper Ralph concludes. “It doesn’t matter where you drink it, as long as you drink it.”

The Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish retails at RM780 per bottle and is available exclusively at Single and Available stores at D-0-3, Block D Plaza Damas, 60 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, KL; G111A, Ground Floor Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, KL; and Mercato, Lot 1.01, Level 1 Pavilion, KL. <p\>

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